In calling these "leaders worth following," I mean to say at least two things. One, there are people who claim to be leaders that aren't worth following. That doesn't mean they have no worth or integrity. It does mean that there are people in the world who claim leadership who aren't actually suitable leaders. Following such people is unnecessarily risky. Relatedly, we all choose to follow someone or something. Simply put, you should make this choice wisely, because yotoo have integrity and worth. You shouldn't waste your energy following leaders whose selfishness or foolishness endangers you or the people you're called to serve.
- Leaders worth following adapt. This might seem obvious, but to be sure, I've seen leaders whose behavior and execution has not changed at all since the COVID-19 crisis began. To not face a changed landscape with an adaptive posture is to embrace death for your organization. Fortunately, there are leaders like Rev. Hazel Salazar-Davidson, who among other kinds of adaptation, made the necessary and difficult adaption to providing an online memorial service for a person who died of coronavirus complications. Though it's certainly not the same thing as a funeral in person, it provided comfort to the grieving and made a holy space for remembering their loved one. You can read Rev. Hazel's reflections and find the service here.
- Leaders worth following show up. Showing up can look like many things, as can the obvious absence of leadership. In a global pandemic, absent leaders leave an abyss of care and guidance for their communities. Showing up in ways that communicate presence, purpose, and perseverance matter greatly. In this time, it's often an online presence, though certainly at times this calls for a bodily appearance, that includes implementing difficult decisions for the communities they serve. Those who remain distant from the crisis are not at all leaders. Consider, for instance, the leadership of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health
- Leaders worth following make space for others' gifts and development. I'm sure you know people in your life who love to do things on their own, and rather than accept help or share responsibility, finish a group project or large chore on their own. I'm here to tell you that, even if the product is good, that person is not a leader. That's precisely because (1) there's no one to lead when you're doing the work on your own and (2) leadership isn't just about the product, it's about the process. I have no idea who said it first - I'm simply sure it wasn't me - but I'm certain that, for good leadership, the process is the product. Making space for others skills, as well as making space for others to develop skills, are necessary aptitudes for leaders. A friend of mine from college, as well as a Trinity Lutheran Seminary graduate, Pastor Mike Hanck serves Salem Lutheran in Toledo, Ohio. Mike's social media presence is almost exclusively depictions of the work that Salem is doing, including the businesses started by their teens, the facilities and grounds improvements done by the parishioners, and the examples of developing, active faith seen through their ministry in the urban rust belt. You can learn about Salem here and request to follow Mike here.
- Leaders worth following give credit to others for success. One of the things I've been continually impressed with as we respond to COVID-19 at Capital University is how our cabinet, and particularly our Provost Jody Fournier, has celebrated the success of our IT department in rolling out universal digital capability for education, to our faculty for executing the digital learning plan, to our staff for redoubled student support and development of new initiatives for student success during this time of distance learning. When you find talented people in your life who constantly share their power and life up the good that others are doing, rather than seek attention for themselves, you've found a leader worth following.
- Leaders worth following apologize when they've made mistakes. We all know leaders who've screwed up. In fact, all leaders have made mistakes. After all, to my knowledge, all leaders are human. Yet, what makes a leader worth following is when they admit, readily and honestly, when they've made a mistake. A dearth of mistakes doesn't mean you have a perfect leader. It means you have a pathological liar at the head of the organization. An apology and a plan to do better is precisely the kind of leadership worth following. This is true not just of individual guides, but also group leadership. For instance, after European Union member Italy received little initial help to combat the particularly harsh outbreak of COVID-19 on Italian soil, the EU both acknowledged the error and committed to new kinds of assistance for Italy.
- Leaders communicate constantly and consistently. Let's be clear about this. Just showing up on television doesn't equal leadership. Some elected officials and business leaders have constantly been on the airwaves, social media, and other media, but providing incredibly inconsistent messages. Consistency requires clear and often frequent repetition of information just to ensure all understand the direction a leader is headed, as well as where, how, and if others should follow. One area that I've been frequently impressed with is T-Mobile's continued communication regarding their 5G network rollout, the merger with Sprint, and how they (along with other carriers) followed the FCC to provide free data (mobile and hotspot) to ensure people could continue to work and students could continue to study. Plus, their CEO John Legere is just a fun follow on Twitter.